Moon Racket

First strip in 6 years maybe? Experimenting with a bunch of stuff at the moment, including hand lettering.

Trying something different. Digital ink. A completely stress free way of moving from my pencils into the final piece. Sure something might be lost, but actually a whole lot more is gained.

Ambient Hum Introduction

I wrote this introduction while in Tampa this summer and its great to finally share it because it captures my thoughts on this world I’ve created.

Moon Racket! is the story of two buddies living on the moon, making noise and eating cheese. It is also the story of my attempts at learning how to draw and write a comic series.

Comics as a medium has been a passion of mine since my early teens. Sadly I never really got around to the actual act of writing and drawing comics, rather spent time circling around the activity itself. And so it was that all of my previous attempts never amounted to any completed comic work - save a four page story for a Guardian/Observer newspaper comic competition called Coffee Beans. To help me fight through this inherent procrastination, the barrier for Moon Racket! was purposely set very low. The result was that for nearly a decade this world and it’s characters would be my main creative outlet. But lets start at the beginning.

At the start of 2010, I had a serious case of brain crack. Brain crack is a term coined by CGP Grey in an episode of the excellent podcast, Hello Internet, ‘…the longer we procrastinate on something we want to do, the more our brains build up expectations of how amazing it’s going to be. It’s like crack for your brain’. The project was based on an idea I had, after a hazy summer evening out in Athens when I was 21. I couldn’t let this idea go but I also couldn’t move it forward in a meaningful way either. Two events would enable me to break my brain free and allowed me to create my first real body of comic work.

Throughout the 2000s, my creative adventures had been spent developing and honing my web and graphic design skills. I had started life on the internet to help me publish my comic work, the issue was that I fell in love with the web itself. The web combined a lot of what I loved about comics in the first place, but in a vastly different format. The web in the early 2000s was an exciting place. I swam in this space for years until the internet landscape changed (which I attribute to Twitter and Facebook) and it stopped being exciting. Another piece of technology would also come out around this time that offered another creative avenue to explore, the iPhone. With the introduction of the iPhone 4, what was possible on this mini computer in your pocket was starting to expand. I decided that I would try and use this this $880 (the going rate with taxes) device to create a comic, each panel would be the size of the phone screen. While the idea was well conceived, it was beyond ambitious.

This entire series of characters was borne from a few images drawn on an iPhone 4 back in 2012. These were done using the crudest of styluses available at the time, which was a thin aluminium tube with a soft sponge attached to the end of it. The key elements of Corgan were there, the booties, long eyes and circles at all the joints. As I drew these characters, their world started to come into view for me. They lived on the moon. The moon was ostensibly made of cheese (and that would never run out of course). After realising that the little moon worm I had drawn was an organic being, he would need some form of air bubble around him to breathe (please don’t argue with my logic, it’s fragile). Very quickly however I hit technological limits. The combination of the crude stylus, the tiny screen and the poor feedback they both provided (when compared to my trusted Muji 0.38mm blank ink pen and Midori paper notebooks), would mean that I would stop this experiment early on. I count the experiment as a success, because it allowed me to create a new world to get lost in and finally shifted my attention to something different, setting my brain free.

In the early 2010s, my life was transitioning from being a single man, to a fiancé, then husband and finally a father. I was living in the Middle East during this time, which was also going through its own transition as a region, as part of the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring started of as a series of anti-government protests and uprisings that started off in Tunisia and would quickly spread to Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain. Nearly a decade late, the chars of that movement are being felt in Syria which erupted into a civil war shortly after. I felt powerless to stop the strong humanitarian disaster that was unfolding around me, culminating in the image of Alan Kurdi washed up on the shore. An image which still haunts me to this day. My brain would retreat and search for a creative outlet to help me manage through this time.


I can’t even remember how or why I would end up calling the entire series Moon Racket!. What I do remember is that the form of logo was crystal clear in my head once I had settled on the name. From this word mark, I originally intended for the series to be filled with onomatopoeia (which is the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named). I don’t think it happened as often as I would have wanted, but that is certainly something I am looking to lean into more in the future.

Many decisions, that defined the Moon Racket! world would also arrive in a completely organic manner. It felt appropriate that the technology used throughout the series would be locked in the 1980s, while the architecture that was on display would be of the future. Strangely (even to me), the Moon and surrounding planets are characters themselves, complete with eyes, arms and hands.

In developing the the style of art, I went off what I felt looked right, a tactic laced with struggle and self doubt. It took a while to kick my propensity of cross-hatching and tried to create a vernacular that was is my own continues. Having never previously really spent any time developing a dynamic cartoony style of art before, the art would evolve the more I drew. My annoying perfectionism would take a back seat as I kept reminding myself that nobody was paying any attention, so it didn’t really matter. Keep moving. Keep drawing one strip after the other.

Even though he was the basis of the entire series, I struggled a great deal with the design of the Corgan character. In developing the shape of his body I would struggle with shape and form. I would keep adding new elements to his body, but would never feel truly comfortable in his depiction, until recently. By contrast Corgan’s third iteration, which has arrived years after I stopped drawing him in the manner he is presented in the this volume, now practically draws himself and rolls off my pencil.

Unsurprisingly the characters and this world, never really took off beyond a limited number of readers. This was expected, considering it would take me over a year to write and draw 20 strips. I didn’t publish nearly enough to build a habit with anyone, but mainly with myself. I ran out of energy, as things in my professional life started to take over and I need to focus a lot more on that side of my life. I decided to put the series on hiatus and capped it creatively, published in March 2017, with a movie poster style image capturing all the characters. The characters would come out of retirement briefly in 2021. I finally was able to fulfil my original vision of creating these on an electronic device. This time it was a 12.9” iPad Pro with an actual stylus (the Apple pencil). After I finally learnt how to draw and colour these characters, I ended up taking an extended break from them.

I could not imagine that these characters would stay with me as long as they have, but maybe that is down to the fact that I have not said all that I wanted to say. The next evolution of the Moon Racket! world is not in the artwork, rather it will be found in the type of topics that I would like to discuss. In defining the direction I want to take these characters in, I am reminded of my mother’s admiration for the political fables presented in Kalīla wa-Dimna, and using it as inspiration for future stories.

For now however, it feels good that the original groundwork for these characters and their world is collected in a single place.

Moon Racket! Ambient Hum is available to buy as a paperback.

Buy the paperback on Amazon ➔

Photo of my book Moon Racket! Cover
Photo of my book Moon Racket! Cover

The project for 2023 was the Moon Racket! collection, Ambient Hum. This one has been long in production. It’s nice to have a single place with all these stories collected.

Things have to move around a little once the final trade dress constraints come in. Book has been ready for several months, but needed to get this cover sorted first. Now time to pull it all together.

When shit gets bad, I tend to fall back onto these characters for support. The process is key.

Procreate Dreams. Between Procreate ans Affinity they have totally transformed what is even possible on an iPad. Cannot wait to get my hands on this app. Maybe even a Moon Racket! short?

It’s done, at least all the interior pages of the Moon Racket! collection is done. All that’s left is a new cover and all the peripheral images that I am working on. It’s also been real fun developing the look of these characters that have been dormant for 5 years.

Onomatopia

I’m really loving how these chapter break pages came together for the Moon Racket! collection. I have been struggling with how to make these pages more visually interesting.

I tried using inverted images, but they just looked odd. Sometimes an idea just pops into your head and it just works.

Introduction Image Screenshot 2023 09 02 at 10 47 49 AM Screenshot 2023 09 02 at 10 47 57 AM Screenshot 2023 09 02 at 10 48 08 AM Screenshot 2023 09 02 at 10 48 20 AM Screenshot 2023 09 02 at 10 48 28 AM

Ordered the copy today. The cover needs to be sorted but great to see 120 pages of Moon Racket! loveliness coming together.

Stationary / 2023 Edition

For a while now I have been going through my stash of stationary, using all the things that I have used over the years. With the exception of my ‘grail’ fountain pen (an Ivory stock Pro Gear), I’ve not really interested in buying new things unless they enhance my stationary life properly.

A couple of boxes of Musgrave’s Tennessee Red pencils was top priority and then I also added one additional item which was the Staedtler 900 25 pencil holder. It’s everything that I could want as a complement to those pencils. Using my Midori MD Paper A5 notebooks (the only notebook I am using for sketching) and I have my absolute mobile studio with me whenever.

What this has done is that it’s made it easy for me to lean into sketching Moon Racket! characters, which I am really enjoying.

Work on Moon Racket! continues. The first draft of all the text is now in. I should have the majority of the book completed by the end of the week save the cover (and possibly some additional sketches and graphic elements I want to add throughout the book).

I sat down in front of iPad this morning to write the Moon Racket! introduction. I was looking at around 300words. In that first instance I thought I was going to struggle to write much more than that. Then my brain started firing up and 1000 words later I could see where all of this was heading. Pretty confident that I will get most of the book done during this stay, maybe even get the start of the cover done?

Publishing Schedule

Over the last couple of days I have felt a little restless. Recently I’ve felt the need to put a little less pressure on myself, when it comes to my creative hobbies. I guess part of this is the realisation that all of these endeavours are a hobby. They all contribute towards a body of work that ultimately helps me get through life; yet they are hobbies nonetheless.

Then I realised how many book projects I have on the go, which likely contributes to that restless feeling. Turns out I have 8 projects in different stages of development. The thing is, a considerable amount of effort goes into the production of any of these book projects. Beyond the writing, illustrating or compiling, putting it all out there takes effort.

KAA Books

With all of these different book projects that I am working on, I thought it would be good to create a new imprint called KAA Books. I did consider KAA Press or even KAA POW, but books just does what it says on the tin. Still on the fence about whether I always keep the books word in there, or just keep the KAA word mark and call it a day.

What’s interesting to me is that these are all different forms of work. Comic strips. Children’s book. Cook book. Illustrated novel. I also have a design book (even have the name ready), and a short story collection (have the first 3 written and published).

In writing this, I imagine part of the restlessness has to be the fact that there are all of these projects that I want to get over the line in some way.

1. Moon Racket! Ambient Hum Vol. 1.

I have had to switch to Affinity Publisher, as this image heavy book was really taxing the Pages app, which is better with other kinds of nooks. This will be my next book. The biggest hurdle is the cover, however I now have a clear idea of what I want it to look like.

2. Moon Racket! Our Solar System.

This is a children’s book idea I have had for a while. what I hadn’t realized was how much I had actually written across 2017. I’m glad I waited a little while as I will need to rework some of this and use the latest character designs which I am really happy with.

3. Leila’s Kitchen.

I started collecting this book earlier this year. It’s a cook book based on my mum’s recipes. The way I see it, we’re co-writing this. I get the receipt, test it out myself and edit according. This is probably a little way off, but I’ll have a ton of fun putting this together and will have something pretty unique and special at the end of it all. This also works really well into the video space, something I’ve not really delved into.

4. Moon Racket! Season 3

This is something I am writing whenever I get an idea. It’s an outlet that I have missed having, it’s been 10 years since I wrote season two. As I have been rereading the older strips, I’ve found that where I have felt most engaged is when I am commenting on the political landscape .It’s a definite change of course (considering I’ve written a children’s book), but I guess the one thing that is clear with these characters is how they have evolved both in their themes and their design.

5. Colours

Originally conceived as a graphic novel, I’ve now decided to work this as a short story. The main concept gave me incredible brain crack, however I think it works well in the 1500-2500 works/season. There will be at least 4-6 seasons. The final version might be a single book with illustrations but honestly that is years away.

Stet

1. Built Environment Compendium Vol.2.

The purple volume. Finally got a print version of this. Will be editing this throughout 2023 and then hopefully Mike can review next year, for publishing summer of 2024.

2. Automated Construction.

The yellow volume. Chapters 1-9 are written, need to stick the landing. This one is proving harder to write because it all has to come together as one volume.

3. Built Environment Compendium Vol.3.

The orange volume. This is the last full volume that I wrote on Stet. Volume 4 is a way off considering all these other projects that I have going.

I’ve been putting together my next book, a collection of everything related to my comic strip Moon Racket! and I am absolutely shocked by the amount of material that I have created over the years (even though I’ve not touched these characters in years). Really looking forward to what the final package looks like. Will be working on the cover next and it should go to print pretty soon - apart from a new introduction and some commentary, there is little by way of editing, it’s all there.

Projects for 2023

I don’t tend to talk very much at what I am planning to do throughout the coming year, having said that this coming year appears to be a pretty busy time with the release of multiple projects that have been gestating for several years. Some will be brand new projects, while others will be putting together of material I have created in the past.

  1. Calendar ‘Bubblegum’ 2023 (kaa/002)
  2. Typeface 01 (kaa/003)
  3. Goodnotes Templates (kaa/004)
  4. Moon Racket! Collection. Will need a new cover. I might also add a few new one page ‘stories’. (kaa/005)

I also fully intend to write a short story in November as well and I would like to finish off the short story I started last year as well (but maybe I get to that this year).

Stet

Beyond that there will be three Stet.Build projects that I would like to tackle:

  1. BEC Vol.2 - The Purple Edition. This will need a new cover, a ton of editing and pulling the document together in pages. (SB/002).
  2. Automated Construction. Complete the draft, currently sitting at 75% complete. (SB/003).
  3. Season Four of In Abeyance. Six issues published bi-weekly.

The Summer of Disruption has been both the easiest thing that I have written and the hardest. When I landed on my couch in October 2022, I reflected on the past few months and how unnecessarily intense it had been.

Our best laid plans had evaporated and we kept coming up against obstacles. It felt like a story I had to preserve for my kids to learn and understand that life is not an easy journey and will throw seemingly insurmountable challenges. In your darkest moments (and there were plenty this summer), remember to keep moving forward. Fighting for a better future is one of the most human attributes anyone can have.


In writing these short stories, the process of writing them has always been a joy to me. I write these in the evening just before going to bed. This one was a little different in that I wrote the first 10 instalments in one sitting and the last 5 instalments also in one sitting. I knew which beats I had to hit, but how deep I would go into any one aspect was left for the day itself.

One idea that I have is to develop this story into a visual story - a graphic novella. Maybe something for next year, along with a Moon Racket collection as well.

For now there are three instalments left. Hopefully I stick the landing.

The Moon

Yesterday my youngest and I turned off the lights and looked up into the sky at the moon. Ryan is completely fascinated by this changing object in the sky. I’m even considering buying a telescope just for him to experience it in a whole new way.  Not sure how ambitious it is for a 1½ year old to grasp what he’d be looking at.

With only 1 week to go before it’s been 50 years since Apollo 11 landed on the moon, I’ve been slowly immersing myself in all things moon related. Really looking forward to the Todd Douglas documentary,  here’s the trailer. The 13 Minutes to the Moon podcast has been an incredible audio journey. Meanwhile the amazing Lego sets that have been released for the Saturn V and Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) are top of my wishlist at the moment.

Finally, here’s a really old (and pretty rough) cartoon I drew 6 years ago now, when Neil Armstrong died. Moon Racket 08 Neil

Then and Now

The truth is that I can’t help myself and keep coming back to these characters. I’ve honestly tried to get into another project, but it’s clear that there is a whole world that needs to be explored, developed and discovered.

This process is both therapy for me and I see it as a way to hone some of my skills to tell a story, develop a world before I take my mediocre skills into something more serious or demanding.

What’s also clear to me, is that there is really no rush with these characters. This August marks 5 years since I first started working on Moon Racket! The below three images were created on an iPhone 4 as a way to use the Brushes app along with a really shitty stylus.

Evolution of Corgan — Created on an iPhone 4

Over time the characters have evolved significantly. The general ideas remain, however the details have changed and hopefully will continue to evolve.

Cast of Characters

This crept up on me to be honest. I started off with a grand total of 2 characters and little else. Over the course of the 5 years I’m now the proud owner of 10 characters and counting (I actually have a further 8 characters that I’ll be showing off sooner or later, but more on that in a bit).

Continuous Change

What I continue to be surprised by, is the fact that every time I create a new image, it adds something new and interesting to this world. I’ve only created two full images this year, but they basically added the orange colour which ties the art together, a new character (in Ison the rocket) and established a new vernacular for the type of buildings that I’d like to see throughout the Moon Racket! world (till now, I’d not shown the guys in the context of an actual physical place). Not bad for two images.

Black & White artwork for header


Completed colour artwork for header

Onomatopoeia

I’ve always felt that one of the main ‘characters’ in Moon Racket! should be the onomatopoeia. I’ve not really utilised this very much and kept the general use of the text and fonts to a minimum. That’s one aspect that I would like to explore a little further in future iterations of these characters.

This is also the first time that I use a new font for signage. I’ve chosen ‘Phosphate’ as one option at the moment, although I also recognise that something more stylised might be necessary down the line.

The Future

Moving into the future, there is a children’s book that I am writing now — probably why I’ve not been drawing very much. It’s certainly taken a lot more out of me than I would have wanted. The concept is simple, but having read a considerable amount of children’s books over the last year, I would say that doing it in an exciting and fun way is a real challenge.

In an attempt at creating a new story, what I am looking into is to try and find a way to slowly create a story that is developed 1 panel at a time. The intention is to continue to draw on a regular basis and just build the story slowly and organically. I’m reasonably comfortable with the art side of things, that I’d like to flesh out these characters a little bit more and start to explore ideas and thoughts that I wonder about on a regular basis.

WIP Moon Racket! It’s been a few months since I drew something fun. Sketched a bunch but no real finished artwork. Hope everyone is having a good summer so far.

Starts

You have to start somewhere. Creativity is borne oftentimes of constraint. While this is something that has been talked about, finding your own constraints is actually much harder to do in practice.

I’ve always wanted to maintain a voice on the internet. Back in 2004, blogging and the community that surrounded that activity on the internet was an extremely exciting and vibrant. I desperately wanted to be a part of what was happening. The problem was that after I exhausted the initial ideas (which to be fair took years to exhaust) I didn’t really find my voice. The options available to me were limitless…and that was the problem.

What’s in a name

This isn’t the first time I’ve used the term Cerebral Interviews. In my first website, from back in 2004, it was the very first category or tag that I used to describe the general noise that was flowing in my head.

I then tried to use that same term for a newsletter that I ran for a year. The newsletter had a bunch of links and commentary that would be published once a month. It was mainly sent through to my friends and family and received approximately 0% engagement from anyone on the list. Hardly a roaring success but it allowed me to get somethings off my chest.

What I’ve realised is that actually although I love design in general, it distracts me from the actual creative work. I will miss the fun that I’ve had learning HTML/CSS/PHP (I could never wrap my head around Javascript for some reason), but I need to add enough constraints that will allow me to produce more regularly.

Design can now be constrained to the images and stuff that surround the work that I publish, rather than the vessel in which they’re delivered to. Medium has my back.

The Product

Which brings me to the actual content at hand. What’s the point of my existing online. Why not limit my output to links and commentary on my Twitter and Instagram accounts? There’s also all the work that goes into producing Moon Racket!?

Twitter doesn’t allow me to craft an article, or publish comics with the inherent presentation that is available at my fingertips on Medium. Having a platform ready to go will allow me to concentrate on the task at hand and actually just finish pages and publish them is an important one for me.

By publishing here, the amount of fiddling available to me is constrained and that will hopefully help me to focus on the final products.

Giving Up

I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but somewhere along the way, I just gave up creating and giving a shit about creating for the internet. I gave up following comic books in a semi-religious manner. I gave up playing basketball every single week. I gave up watching movies regularly. I gave up writing to my various website.

My aim has always been to create a small library of stories that I’ve written and drawn that are available in a multitude of formats (from digital to paperbacks and hardcovers). It’s a reasonably modest aim, but with the option of becoming greater depending on scale.

Do I think that this library of stories will provide me with a living? Probably not, unless I have some serious success somewhere and hit on the zeitgeist in a way that I can neither predict nor anticipate. So I’ll be content to having a series of books with my name on the spine and that finally put to paper the ideas in my head.

Little strokes fell great oaks

I’m clear that for the time being I will not have hours and hours to my name. I can however carve 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening and effectively do 2 pomodoros. High burst sets of 30 minutes pieces of work. That’s 7 hours a week. That’s 364 hours a year. If I spend 10 hours per page that equates to 36.4 pages of story and art. If I manage to do a page of art a week, then I’ll be able to do around 50 pages a year. The size of a European album.

The numbers don’t lie. It all starts with 2 pomodoros every single day. The issue however is life getting in the way. Sometimes you’re extremely tired. Sometimes the boy doesn’t sleep. Sometimes I have a business trip or I’m not feeling up for it. This is only natural. The difficulty is finding a way to get back into the routine. Routines are hard won and easily lost.

Deadlines

The last piece of the puzzle. I have about 8 projects that are not really linked with each other floating at different stages of development. I need to stop the braincrack from spreading and destroying my flow.

So I’ll be dedicating 1 year to any of these projects. That gives them enough time to mature. Of course if I’m close to finishing any of the projects then I’ll continue till I finish, but if I’m completely off, then that one gets parked and I move onto the next one.

So as a way to keep track, 2015 was mainly Moon Racket! and will extend to the end of 2016. After 2016, I will stop work on this series (unless it’s exploded) and then move onto the next project.

This all begins tomorrow morning - I’ll be back regularly to discuss progress.

Trying something different with the inking for Moon Racket! #nocrosshatching

What’s this you ask? More Moon Racket! Good to be back

2016

5 months. That’s a really long time between updates. The truth is that I was creating things until at least the very end of september, it just so happened that I wasn’t really in the mood to talk about them.

The main reason for the radio silence over the autumn and start of winter is down to the fact that I’m relocating to Dubai. That’s been a huge drain on all of my ‘free’ time and drawing and creating has been relegated to the too difficult to deal with drawer.

I have decided to take this time to reflect on what I want to do with my creative output once things have settled down a little bit more.

Moon Racket!

I’ve got 10-15 new strips of Moon Racket! to publish and then I’d like to stick to the routine of publishing something new to Moon Racket! at least once a week for the entire year of 2016. Obviously I’ll likely fail, but I want to at least try.

The main focus moving forward will be to improve the strip with actual backgrounds. I’m painfully aware at the general lack of backgrounds and environment that is missing (or at least that could be better defined than right now).

However I won’t be publishing 4 panel strips. It’s not how my brain works. Rather I’ll be writing stories that will take up several panels, maybe entire pages with these characters in them. I have the first story roughed out, so just need to get cracking.

Chroma

The real push in 2016 will be for me to finally draw and start publishing Chroma. This is a very long time coming and I feel that if I don’t do it now, I’ll likely never do it. After multiple attempts at starting this project, I’m now of the mind that it’s better to get it out there, in whatever form it comes, rather than trying to get it perfect from day one. It will never be that so I should stop worrying about it.

Creative Output

If I’m able to publish 1 page a month of Chroma and the weekly Moon Racket! page, then 2016 is likely going to be a MONSTER year . I’m fully aware that this is an ambitious programme for me (considering what goes into moving to a city like Dubai), but this is work that I’ll be carrying out first thing in the morning. The intention is to carry out 1-2 hours of creative output a day, every day, every morning.

I’ve not published any Moon Racket! In a while, but couldn’t help myself. #superbloodmoon #supermoon #bloodmoon #moonracket #webcomics

I just published the first full colour Moon Racket! strip, Taking a Minute. I’ll be getting into my overall setup at some point, but this is a decided shift from me as I have until now published only in black and white.

This is not a sign that I no longer believe in black & white, but maybe rather the strip is better served on the internet with a splash of colour - I’ll report on whether that theory holds water after a few of these have gone out, but my feeling is that this small change will make a noticable difference.

As this is still the first one, like with most strips, there will be an evolution of the colour art as I get more comfortable with the process and try different ideas.The only downside, is that the Moon Racket! website will now have to be tweaked slightly to capture this colour palette (which is slightly different from previous iterations of colour that I’ve used in promo art).

I’m considering using colour in all future Moon Racket! Strips. This is actually the second colour iteration (previous one was a bit drab). #colour #color #comics #affinityphoto #webcomic #moonracket

Moon Racket! on Medium

I’ve decided to use Medium as an additional platform from which I publish the new season of my comic, Moon Racket! Multiple factors coalesced to make this decision.

In the past I have used 3 different platforms to publish and distribute my comic strip:

  1. The official website, hosted on Tumblr
  2. The newsletter, powered by Tinyletter
  3. Tapastic (at least in the first season).

Moving forward I’ll be publishing on Medium, Moon Racket! and through the newsletter. So what brought about this change? To answer that question, I think I should answer another question, how have the other platforms been faring?

The truth is that each of the above platforms provided very specific (detrimental) restrictions on the artwork itself, but also allowed for a potentially wider distribution. The problem is that this wider distribution never manifested itself in a meaningful way.

Tumblr

Moon Racket! is hosted on Tumblr, a platform usually suited for rectangular posts that fit within the stream that is present for eveyone. The restrictions on images are therefore made to suit their platform. The maximum size of image that can be posted is one that is 1200px wide. On a retina screen that’s the equivalent of a 600px image. The effect of this restriction is that my comic always appears blurry.

While this is a nitpick, for a perfectionist like myself, it’s a deal breaker.

Newsletter

If I thought that Tumblr provided restrictions, then I was in for a rude awakening with my newsletter experience. This one can only be typically shown in a 600px wide image, otherwise it will break most inboxes.

My experience with Tinyletter has been mixed. But ultimately my question for a beautiful experience was wrecked by that platform’s constraints. In mitigate I’ve moved things over to Mailchimp, which I’m hoping will offer better options and experience.

Even then, I’m still not showcasing the art in the best possible way.

Tapastic

This platform holds promise, but once again there are size restrictions to the images that can be uploaded. While the platform as a whole does allow for a plethora of things aimed at comic content creators, I don’t believe that I would be able to reap many (any?) of those benefits.

It’s also being lost in the sea that is being published there. Some of which is aimed at a very different audience.


Which brings me to Medium.

The editor provided on Medium is without question the best editor on the internet, have tried a very large number of them.

The other instant win for Medium is how the platform chooses to deal with images. They’re not just first class citizens, they are allowed to exist in a manner that makes them shine. In fact the more I write about this, the more convinced I am of what an idiot I am for not considering this platform earlier.

The biggest question I have is whether I can connect with an audience for an all ages comic strip about a robot (Corgan) and his worm friend (Alfie) that live on the moon, that’s made of cheese on Medium.

That’s a journey I’m happy to take, because if nothing else I’ll take it in style.

I’m super excited to announce that the first installment of my web comic (now in it’s second season) Moon Racket! is finally online after months of careful beavering behind the scenes.

To overcome the issues I described previously with regards to Tumblr and image size limitations for Retina screens, for those with an awesome screen you can check out the Retina Version.

I’m super excited to announce that the first episode of my web comic Moon Racket! (now in its second season) is now finally online. Link in my profile. Go check it out. #comicstrip #comicstrip #moonracket #webcomic #blackandwhite #copic #unipin

Moon Racket Website Update

Ever since I ‘relaunched’ the Moon Racket! website I’ve not been particularly happy with the footer. I always knew that it would have to change. My initial use of the footer was to effectively send people to different parts of the net that related to all things Moon Racket! - the Twitter account, the facebook account, the newsletter and this process blog. All of these links have now moved to the very top of the website, in a nice menu bar, that’s out of the way, but fully accessible if needed.

I received some negative feedback, when I publishing the first season, that sticks in my mind. It was from a woman that didn’t really understand what was going on in the series. On reflection I totally get that. At the time I couldn’t do anything about it, as the stories and art had been created. I knew I had to do better with the second series.

In an attempt to make the series more accessible, the stories have been written to not be as presumtive, but also the website should be first time reader friendly. To address these two issues, I’ve decided to use the footer as a What You Need to Know section, complete with character head shots and names, using those sketches from the previous post.

Marketing

What kind of audience do I think Moon Racket! is intended for and how do I reach them?

I’ve been struggling with this question a lot recently, in the lead up to releasing the second season. This then brought up a series of other questions.

  1. What are the topics the series tackles?
  2. Where can I find an audience and declare to them the genius that is Moon Racket!, while not appearing like a complete douche bag pimping my shit like a second rate car salesman?
  3. Can I focus on a niche group of people with a specific interest, that would appreciate Moon Racket! and what it has to offer?
  4. Is this series even worth promoting?

My intention has always been to create a great strip, that I would like to see myself and I never honestly even considered these questions when I created the strip. I foolishly expected that between Facebook and Twitter there would be an easy way of marketing my wares. The reality of course is far different and that achieving any traction via social media is reasonably limited (at least for my little webcomic).

In order to try and find different answers and solutions to this question, I’ll be tackling this topic in more detail over the coming weeks, reporting on how certain avenues have actually helped the cause.

Continuing this series of posts on the evolution of characters from Moon Racket!, this is first full sketch of Corgan.

What’s facinating to me is just how much information was captured in this one image that I don’t even remember creating. The main features of the character are there, such as the white boots, the shape of the head and the eyes and most importantly the colour palette that was chosen.

The neck reduced in height significantly in later iterations, but this has always been a general favourite sketch of mine because it helped define the world I am trying to create in many subtle ways.

The image that started Moon Racket.

The incredible part (when you consider the physical and hardware constraints) is that it was all created on an iPhone 4. I’ve written about this before (probably on my now defunct Facebook page), the intention was to create a super simple character that could be easily drawn on that tiny little screen.

As time went on, the character evolved. While I now find him incredibly easy to draw (and can tell instantly when I’ve not done a good job of my lines), that wasn’t always the case.

In fact the first year of Corgan’s life, I wasn’t super comfortable with certain aspects of his drawing him (so much so I remember the very first strip, I thought to trace him as I spent long on the first panel, but quickly realised that I was being stupid and foolish).

Good Citizens

There is much to like about Tumblr and publishing on Tumblr. There are however some constraints that I have been trying to work my way through. High resolution images on Tumblr are constrained in size to 1280px for normal high res photos and 2560x500px for panorama photos.

The problem is that Moon Racket strips don’t really fall into either category. I could potentially use the panorama photos setting, but that would mean making things fit into a 500px height (which isn’t great). Here’s a look of what the panorma would look like using the latest weekly (which dropped yesterday):

Panorama

Alternatively I could upload the image as 1280px. On a retina display that works out to be a 640px image (which honestly is tiny). My website allows for a 960px width - on a retina display that’s 1920px. If I do let Tumblr do it’s thing, then my crisp black lines that I’ve worked long and hard on, become this blurred mess.

The only other solution I’ve found is to host the images on Flickr and then link them over. I get to post the image that I want in any resolution that I please. This solution does not make for very good Tumblr citizen but it makes for a better web site.


The irony of course is that both Flickr and Tumblr are owned by Yahoo! - so the image is hosted on their servers anyway. The whole thing is just annoying and you end up loosing out on some of the cool features that are inherently a part of Tumblr - for the sake of a few measily pixels.

Ephemeral Life Diaries

You know what I miss? I miss daily blogging.

5 years ago, the last time I was blogging on any regular basis, there was a rhythm to my publishing madness. Every morning would bring with it the promise of writing something new; sometimes it would be trivial, other times it would be ‘important’. The trick was to show up every day.

The last year has honestly stripped me of very little personal time as I juggle being a husband, a father and an engineer. What little spare time I do have, I try and relax by drawing, inking, reading or watching a little bit of television as time permits.

In that respect my online worlds are effectively extensions of a life diary that I’m creating piece by piece. I might own the content, but it’s hosted by someone else.


When I sit and consider what I’ve created over the last several years, my online endeavours are not high on that priority list. I’ve created countless websites, written at this stage thousands of posts (large and small) and while it did provide me with an outlet, none of it will last very long. Maybe none of it will matter except as a marker from a different time in my life.

My online space has now become somewhat diluted across multiple platforms (an Instagram, several Tumblrs, a couple of Twitters, a Dribbble, a Flickr, a Tinyletter). What happens is that I end up not generating as much content for each platform but what I’ve realised is that this might not actually matter. What matters is work that I find meaningful that will last.

Which then leads to be to start questioning my general output. What work can I look back on objectively and be proud of? Over the last 4 ½ years my output has been limited to all things Moon Racket. This was a pretty concious decision on my part. Focus on a single project allows it to grow it’s potential. This is the work that I have devoted my free time for, and this is the work that I hope will blossom over the coming year.

Momentum

I’ve been drawing Moon Racket for several years now. You wouldn’t know it, as I’ve only released around 23 images in total. The truth is that I’ve got hundreds of sketches, doodles and even strips that have not been released (apart from the odd snap on Instagram). There are two resons for this:

  1. Quality. The creative process and the quality in the first few years really wasn’t that great. When I look back at Season One I cringe (and that was the art I was ‘happy’ with at the time). However if I didn’t persevere, then I wouldn’t be in the position I am now, where I am comfortable enough to draw the characters in a few short minutes.
  2. Schedule. This one is actually a self imposed reason. My thinking being that I cannot really predict how often I’m likely to finish a drawing and do all the necessary post-production work. So instead the idea was to bank an entire season before I started publishing. The problem with this decision, is that nothing gets published (in my case over a year) and any momentum is lost.

That is actually an issue that I would like to address. The simplest solution is to publish things as they become available and ignore the whole issue of schedule. As a companion to this solution I’ve also decided to create small single image strip (created in my favourite notebooks of all time, the Midori MD A5 notebooks) that takes a few hours to draw and ink to provide stop gaps between more involved strips.

Here’s the first image.

Season 2 Gang

Corgan’s been through some tweaks ahead of the release of Season 2 of Moon Racket. Super excited to finally restart publishing this series soon. #moonracket #ink #cartoon #comics #webcomic

Progress Report #1

It’s been a while since I checked in on progress for Moon Racket Season 2. My original deadline for this season has shifted somewhat, but my plan was somewhat flawed in that I thought I could finish off the art the same year that Zane (my son) was born - I am that hopelessly optimistic. That was never going to really happen. The good news is that I made incredible progress while I was on holiday and thankfully I am still riding that momentum. When I left in December I had 6 strips fully completed. Now a little over a month later I have over 20 strips that are in varying degrees of completness. In addition to that I was able to work through the thumbnails for the remaining 10 strips. That’s right, unlike the first season (which was 20 strips in total), Season 2 will be expanded to 30 strips.

Frictionless Creation

I attribute the fact that I’ve been able to create anything at all to the fact that I’ve made a concerted effort in trying to remove as much friction in the creation process as possible.

  1. Make sure that each script has the thumbnails worked out for the entire page. Doodle, change the script if necessary.
  2. Do all the lettering. I use Sketch for this as it’s my Freehand alternative. This gives me the word placement so that I can taylor the art accordingly (make sure the character’s head isn’t covered by a balloon).
  3. As I’m drawing all the artwork on A3 board, I need to cut them down the middle. I then also drew all the panels in, so that I have one less excuse to actually getting started on the art (ie doing something without actually doing anything).

Hopes & Aspirations

One of my desires for this strip, is that as I continue to draw it in the future, I’ll always be able to look back and see a progression from the previous year. It means that I’m trying to make the strip better and make myself better at the creation process. What I didn’t anticipate was seeing a fluidity in the characters between the very first strip I drew and the recent strips.

This poses the question of whether I should go back and rework the original drawings to meet that fluidity or leave them as they currently are as a marker. My initial reaction is to leave them as they are. This is an ongoing strip, rather than a finite graphic novel. Things don’t actually have to look consistent (nor do they, when you compare the very first season even).

Deadlines

I know I shouldn’t really tempt fate and declare a deadline, but I want to be able to start publishing the newest season in the spring some time and feel that this goal is completely within my reach. The next massive hurdle that I have to start considering is how I promote the hell out of this series once I’m finally ready to actually publish. More on that in future posts.

Tools used this holiday break. Was able to draw 10 strips for season 2 of Moon Racket - and have thumbnails for the rest of the season. I had hoped to finish the art last year but taking my time with it means a better result - will start posting random panels soon. #kaweco #unipin #retro51 #sakura #shinhanart #tk4600

Distractions

I’m currently on holiday, which typically means that I have enough time to consider various aspects of my life. For this trip I decided to leave my computer at home.The reason for this were two-fold.

The first reason was really about my general transition over the last several months away from the digital and more into the analogue. As a more pencil, paper and pen inclined man, I wanted to disconnect a little bit more.

The second reason is the big one, distractions. With a fully capable computer, my possibilities for wondering into a different world, creating something else, or ‘researching’ is near infinite. I know this of myself and I wanted to limit that access.

Instead I took my new iPhone 6 and a bluetooth keyboard bought over 7 years ago now (Apple doesn’t build shit). Ideas would begin life on paper first and then would move over to the digital world. The digital is the final destination (at least at the moment). It is the final product, how ideas and art is shared others - a delivery medium many take for granted because of it’s ubiquitous nature.

Overall, this process has helped me focus greatly on Moon Racket (I’ll have more to discuss about this on my process site) and allowed my mind to engage more with my family which has grown by 1 this year.

One of my goals for the year is to try and write more (promise this will be the only time I write about writing more, I’m as jaded about these types of posts like you are). I enjoy the process of writing something a little more longform. There are plenty of places for me to capture my banal and personal musing (that’s either in my Hobonichi Techo or within Day One). This site will be a way for me to work some things out. Once a week. The length and format isn’t as important as the mere act of writing and exercising this muscle that was used on a regular basis some 10 years ago and which has gone dormant over the last 5 years.

Mini session while Yasmine and the boy do some shopping. Working out something’s for Moon Racket.

Moon Racket t-shirts finally arrived. There really isn’t anything quite like creating something in the digital realm and then seeing it manifest in the real world.

These turned out exactly as I wanted them to, from the fine folks at Printful. Highly recommend these guys if you want a short run done.

Inktober #5 - Retro Signs

Something a little different for today. I’m working on the logo for Corgan’s workshop, for the new season of Moon Racket!.

Where the magic happens. Everything (apart from my computer) that I use in the creation of Moon Racket!

Super excited to finally have received these in the mail yesterday. I did also have one third t-shirt made in a slate colour with the Moon Racket! logo on it, but unfortunately there was a printing error on that one, so I’m waiting on some replacements.

Having said all of that, there is a unique joy in having designed something and then seeing it as a physical object, even if it is as simple as a T-shirt.

Pencils

I posted this image on the Moon Racket! twitter account (you should follow the account, I talk all things comics there, not just Moon Racket!) yesterday, but I thought it was important to elaborate a little further here.

Basically what you have there is two panels. The first is actually the last panel found in Season One, while the second panel is the first panel for Season Two which I am currently in the process of drawing.

To me the difference couldn’t be more stark - it honestly feels like two different people drew these. The difference of course is confidence in the characters, but I’ve also changed my tools and the way I’m approaching the art in general.

Tools

While tools are not the reason for art to be rubbish, the wrong tools can’t help the process either. The first thing that’s changed is the paper. I’ve gone from a reasonable rough yellowy paper in a perfect bound art book to individual cut “bristol board”-thick A3 sheets. The difference is liberating in that the final panel is hanging off a thick stack of paper underneath it (as it’s not part of a book).

The second thing that I’ve done is move away from my trusted Copic markers and have moved on to the much cheaper and much better Uni Pin black pigment pens for the thicker pen sizes. I still use my trusted Muji Gel ink pens for all the inking of the standard lines.

Size Matters

The last part, that as far as I’m concerned has transformed the artwork for me and allowed me to move up a level, is increasing the size of the individual panels. Suddenly I have soo much room to breathe and stretch my artistic muscle.

Time

Although Season One was never rushed, I didn’t give the pencils enough time to mature. Like a fine wine, pencil work should sit there for a little while to develop in your eyes and allow you to see and correct all the little mistakes. Don’t be afraid to redraw entire panels if they’re not right. While moving to ink is exciting, leave it for a day, come back to it. Do some more penciling instead.

I’ve launched a campaign for the 1st edition t-shirt of my comic book series Moon Racket!.

Head on over to the Teespring page and show your support. Thanks.

Own a part of history with the very first official T-shirt for my comic strip Moon Racket! Disclaimed #1: There might be a small (ok, a very substantial) amount of hyperbole in the first part of that statement.

Have bragging rights over all your friends and get an awesome T-shirt to boot. Bonus! Disclaimer #2: No, that statement is true.

Head on over to the Teespring page and show your support. Thanks.

Website Relaunch

When I released Moon Racket! I was never happy with the website, as I felt it wasn’t a particularly good showcase of the work. While the general presentation of the same exact strips on both Facebook and Tapastic was marginally better, I’ve wanted to make sure that I addressed this issue before starting to release Season Two.

After many months of the final mockup gathering dust in the project folder, I was able to buckle down over the weekend and put the site together.

The main aim for this design was to make sure that the focus of the site was on the strips themselves. This explains the gradual grade from the top and bottom bars to white and focusing on the strip. Not everything is perfect (It’s not a fully responsive site or at least not in a meaningful way), however improvements will be ongoing now that the base is established.

In addition to the new window dressing, you can finally read all the Moon Racket! strips in high definition - I re-uploaded high resolution versions of all the images to look good on a retina display.

Process

A few months after publishing the last episode of Moon Racket Season One, I’ve now finished writing the second season. If the first season was all about seeing a project through to completion, the second season is taking the idea and adding some polish.

One of the things I’ve always enjoy watching is the natural maturing process a body of work sometimes goes through while the creative minds behind the work hone their skills. Although I can only dream of reaching the lofty heights reached by a series like The Simpsons, an apt comparison in one regard would be how the first season looked compared to what we recognise as the characters now. There was a maturing process and this is something that I aim to achieve for Season Two, both for the writing and the art.


I’ve already spoken about the proposed increase in paper size (and therefore Panel Size) of the coming season. One thing I realised very quickly was just how important the initial scripts were. The first season had a bit of looseness in the scripts. I would often times rewrite the thing as I was drawing it - sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

For this season I decided to really pour into the details of every script. I would not go on to the next one until I actually had completed the one I was working on. If I got stuck on any one strip, I would remove it from the document I was working on and paste it into a second document that acted as my ‘graveyard’. This allowed me to focus on one strip at a time. What I realised was that some ideas took days, weeks to mature or develop in my head and other ideas effectively wrote themselves. What I also realised was the last 5 episodes were extremely difficult to complete, which might have been a mental block on my side, or the fact that I had a lot going on in my life at the time.

Panel Sizes

Moon Racket started out life on my iPhone 4. It was a method for me to actually use my latest ‘computer’ to create content, rather than just consume on it.

The obvious limitation was the size of the screen, so I decided to use this as the panel size (or at least the same aspect ratio 3:2) with the idea that eventually when I release the series digitally, it will already be formatted for this screen size.

I realised pretty quickly that although I was getting the benefit of colour and I was using my iPhone, the creation process was stifling and the end result wasn’t as consistent as I would have liked. I decided to take the strip back to the physical world and made the investment in an A4 hardcover art book with thick paper - no idea what the grade is, but it was reasonably smooth (not bristol board smooth). It was one of the best decisions I’ve made. All of Moon Racket lives in this A4 book.

Traditionally the newspaper industry and therefore the artform itself, comic strips are typically 4 panels, 4 inches by 3 inches. In an attempt to grow, Season Two will be framed with the typical 3:4 ratio panels. I’ve had to get some American sized paper, 11x14 inches, which frustratingly is slightly larger than A4 but smaller than A3 - and means I can no longer use my A4 book.

Hopefully this change will mean that the art will breathe more and therefore should allow the strip to better shine.

Season One Report Card

Today marks 20 consecutive weeks that I’ve published a new episode for my online comic Moon Racket, so I thought it would be nice to take stock and review the experience.

All 20 strips in a nice overview image.

Rather than being completely harsh (which would come easily for me when reviewing my own work), I think I’ll first highlight some of the things that I thought went well.

Firstly, the strip never missed a ship date. All 20 episodes were released every Sunday for 20 weeks. Secondly, the general reaction on both Facebook and Tumblr have been really great and I’m grateful to everyone who has liked, shared or read the strip. I’m still debating whether or not Tapastic is worth it, but I do it for the 3 that have subscribed and hopefully enjoying the strip.

Overall, I give the strips an overall 5/10. There are some stories that I think worked out better than others but the truth is I could have written better stories and could have developed the characters better.

One aspect that I am genuinely happy with is the evolution of the artwork. I still think it’s ok and only the errors jump out at me, but at least I can see a proper improvement over the life of the strip.

With that in mind the series is going to take a break for a few months while I write better stories (currently I have 10 in the bag) and come back stronger with Season Two.

Inking Tools

In early 2012 I started work on my first iOS app with my cousin. The trip was long and meandering (one which unfortunately we never completed).

One of the things that I made sure I did was keep all my notes and scribbles in a single notebook. This was a bit of a departure for me, but one that I have maintained for all my future projects. Each project has it’s own notebook where most things can be found.

One sketch that I attribute the inking of Moon Racket to, is the original icon sketch for the app.

The importance of this sketch was in making me appreciate the Muji 0.38mm black gel ink pen as a tool for clean inking and providing the correct thickness of line that I was originally looking for - but couldn’t really achieve with my Copic pens.

While this pen isn’t completely suitable for the clean lined artwork of Chroma, it still has it’s uses for all the cross-hatching required. Sometimes you stumble on a tool that elevates your art, for me it was my Muji gel ink pen.

2013 in Review

When you reflect back on a year, the hope is always to find a number of moments that put a smile on your face - thankfully these last 12 months have given me with a lot to smile about.

Getting the news that I am going to become a father was the definite highlight - a fact which I’ve honestly not wrapped my head completely around, but I’ve started preparing1.

Creatively this year is one of my strongest in recent memory. I drew an entire season of Moon Racket, a slew of additional promotional images and designed the website - although it’s going to get some redesign love in the new year. Surprisingly the comic work didn’t end there as I completely rewrote the script for Chroma (my upcoming comics project) that has been many years in the making.

I redesigned this here site for the umpteenth time, however I do believe that this iteration is by far my most mature attempt and probably one that I will likely not change fundamentally for many years to come. The aspects of the site that I am most happy with are the colours and the typography, which is the first time in many years that I am ahead of the curve in certain respects (small caps only valid in certain browsers, surprisingly not Safari/Webkit proper).

Finally I started work on two iOS apps. The first one, we’ve scrapped and shelved, the other I hope we get some traction in the new year and we finally ship something, because as we all know:

Real Artists Ship.

Steve Jobs

Here’s wishing everyone a great 2014.

  1. This year I started getting into photography a little bit more. I want to make sure that I am capable of capturing my son or daughter’s life in the most beautiful way - like every self respecting geek father should. ↩︎

Lettering

In creating Moon Racket, it was very clear to me early on that the lettering would have to be a character in itself. My initial attempts at lettering involved hand lettering, in the end I opted for some great fonts from the Comicraft library.

Fresh Starts

Earlier this year I contemplated shutting down Broken Kode, a site that has been part of the internet landscape since January 2004, a total of nearly 10 years online. In a last attempt to keep the name and the site alive I tried changing things around to see if I could maintain my enthusiasm for it.

My first attempt was to try and focus on all things Tesla Motors. However I quickly realised that actually I was writing to an audience of one (myself) and that I wasn’t enjoying the process all that much. My next idea was to use the site as a simple Tumblr, a digital drawer for things that others created. My attempts can still be read here.

Ultimately I felt that the site deserved better treatment. In the last few months I have started publishing my comic work, on Moon Racket and I have several other projects in the pipeline as well. So this site will be used as a way to log my ideas and showcase the creative process, in the attempt to better understand what I am doing and how I could be doing it better. The posts on this site will be more limited, however each and every one will be infinitely more personal.

Perseverance

Maintaining focus with your side projects is a difficult task. Life doesn’t always give you all the time and space to do this at your leisure, then again life doesn’t owe you anything and it’s up to you to use the time that you do have available wisely.

Currently I am publishing Moon Racket weekly and have finished writing the script for my next project. Work on the new project is going well, as I’ve also managed to draw the first couple of pages of this series, with the hope of actually publishing it at the start of the new year - also on a weekly publishing programme.

I sometimes lament the time that’s come and gone that I could have used to create the art and words; however the main problem was understanding that sometimes you have to take the plunge, create something (even if it’s not up the standard that you want it to be), with the understanding that the more you do something, the better you eventually become at it.

Moon Racket, Episode 01 - Beginnings

The first episode of my weekly comic strip, Moon Racket - I am still sorting out the official website.

Until I get that sorted, lots of good things happening on the Facebook page, so go like the page to get it delivered in your stream if that’s your thing.

Alternatively, you can follow us on Twitter (if that’s more your thing).

Finally completed the ‘Coming Soon’ page for Moon Racket (my online comic strip going live sometime in September).

As the website says, for more news & updates and would like to help spread the word, you can either:

  1. Like us on Facebook
  2. Or follow us on Twitter

Sticker Mule - Custom Stickers, Die Cut Stickers and Laptop Skins. This is all good research for future promotional items for Moon Racket.

In preparation for the release of my upcoming online comic ‘Moon Racket’, I’d really appreciate the help in spreading the word. You can either like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

For my part, I will hopefully entertain you on a daily basis, or at the very least put a smile on your face. Everyone’s a winner.

Thanks for helping spread the word.